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Diplomacy Best Way to Confront Iran’s Nuclear Programs, Gates Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2007 – A diplomatic solution is best way to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, because “having to take care of this problem militarily is in no one’s interest,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Speaking at the sixth annual International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit, Gates expressed optimism about progress in curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through the “Six-Party Talks.” He said he’s hopeful the diplomatic approach will prove successful in addressing Iraq’s efforts, too.

Iraq poses a threat to Southwest Asia and potentially Europe, particularly as it builds missiles of increasing range, Gates told defense and military leaders from 25 Asian nations during his keynote address.

During a question-and-answer session that followed the speech, Gates said the U.S. intelligence community generally agrees that Iraq will be able to develop a nuclear weapon sometime between 2010 and 2015, and possibly even earlier. “There are those who believe that that could happen much sooner, in late 2008 or 2009,” he said.

Efforts to get Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities aren’t aimed at legitimate energy-production programs, he stressed. “I don’t think anyone begrudges Iran the capacity to have peaceful nuclear power under proper safeguards and supervision,” he said. “They key is whether they will have nuclear weapons.”

That’s a distinction Gates said is impossible to make due to the way Iran conducts its affairs. “The reality is … we really don’t know,” he said.

As a result, Gates called on the United Nations Security Council to “ratchet up pressure” on Iran, “not next year or the year after, but right now.”

In addition, he called for the international community to come together to strengthen sanctions against Iran so it has to make some hard decisions.

These sanctions would force the Tehran government to “begin to face some serious tradeoffs in terms of their economic well-being and their economic future for having nuclear weapons,” Gates said.

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Robert M. Gates

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